Balanced approach

Published June 2, 2023

POLITICAL equations are never easy to engineer, let alone solve. A political crisis should either be allowed to burn through or resolved via the electoral process — imposing any artificial solution on it will never address the social conflicts precipitating it.

Unfortunately, the many lessons from Pakistani history that substantiate this simple fact continue to be ignored. Instead of taking a laissez-faire approach to democratic processes, past practice has been to introduce new variables into the political equation to counteract a popular political force whenever it begins posing a threat to the status quo.

There are several extant by-products of this strategy. The Q-League, MQM-Haqiqi and Pak Sarzameen Party were carved out from the PML-N and MQM after the parent parties began asserting themselves in ways that were not approved of by the status quo elite.

Likewise, the National Awami Party, banned from Pakistani politics in 1975 by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto because of its dogged opposition to his politics and policies, has survived through its avatar, the ANP.

Based on recent news reports, it appears that several PTI leaders who recently deserted their party and said they were disavowing politics might have already been roped in for a fresh experiment.

Former information minister Fawad Chaudhry, former Sindh governor Imran Ismail and erstwhile PTI stalwarts Amir Kiani and Mehmood Moulvi on Wednesday made an attempt to convince PTI vice-chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi to ditch the party.

Mr Chaudhry also revealed that he had reached out to other key leaders from the PTI for their support for the new venture. For now, his efforts have borne no fruit. It may be noted, however, that Mr Qureshi was recently named heir apparent to the PTI by the party’s chairman himself. This could make his departure, if it happens, rather devastating to the beleaguered party’s morale.

What is most intriguing, however, is that this new grouping has made it quite clear that it will be acting in opposition to the PDM parties. In other words, it will be seeking to prevent the PPP and PML-N from taking advantage of the PTI’s fall.

It is unclear how this wheeling and dealing will benefit the country, considering how polarised public opinion has become due to the PDM government’s economic mismanagement amidst worsening sociopolitical crises.

Only a legitimate government — elected through a fair electoral contest and backed by a strong public mandate — may be able to take the country out of its present crisis. Unfortunately, it appears that we may be heading in a completely different direction.

The parties in power must ask themselves if another hung parliament serves their political interests. They entered a marriage of convenience over their opposition to the PTI, but will this marriage last another five years amidst wide-ranging crises?

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2023

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